Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reading the Newspaper in Salalah

Some excerpts from the 17 July issue of Al-Shabiba, one of Oman’s daily newspapers (brought to you by KFC and Hardee’s):
Front page headlines include stories on the results of end-of-year school exams; a meeting between Omani and Iranian officials seeking to “establish joint cooperation;” increasing numbers of foreign fighters in Afghanistan; the King of Saudi Arabia's speech at a religious dialogue conference in Spain; and the Sultan sending congratulations to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on the occasion of his country's national holiday.

In the “Government Officials Shaking Hands and Sitting in Oversized Chairs” section of today’s paper, Al-Shabiba covers the Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to Oman. Almost every newspaper has a section devoted to this, but I feel like it’s especially pronounced in the Middle East, where the appearance of government hospitality is an important marker of legitimacy because of its cultural significance. The officials no doubt went a lot farther than posing for pictures; Oman shares control of the Strait of Hormuz with Iran and a potential U.S. attack on Iran would have huge (and catastrophic effects) on both countries.

In the “Rising from Humble Beginnings to Pop Music Superstardom” section, a story on Egyptian heartthrob Tamer Hosni, who admits, “I lived a hard childhood and borrowed from the doorman.”

“Announcements of Flight.” The main Omani newspapers all carry notices like this, which amount to wanted posters for migrant laborers (mostly from south Asia) who have fled their jobs.

“The Curse of California: After the Fires Come Mud Slides.” Looks rather like the end of days. Luckily, California has a man for the job.

Luckier still, I can keep up with other happenings in that cursed state despite the fires and the mudslides. There is, for example, a blurb on the tribulations of Lindsay Lohan, whom the article describes as a “young lady of American society.”

The paper carries a number of syndicated columns from Oman, other Arab countries, and the rest of the world, one of which is a translated New York Times Op-Ed from Paul Krugman, entitled “Ted Kennedy's Big Day.” Between everyone’s favorite bearded economist (take that, Bernanke), the Governator, and Lindsay Lohan, I could mistake this paper for an American one. But I probably won’t due to a number of reasons, one of them being the fact that the picture accompanying the article isn’t Krugman; it’s Nicholas Kristof. Another reason is that in Arabic Paul is transliterated as bool, which means urine. I wonder if Krugman is pissed.

Imagine for a second what kind of image of America this creates. And now remember the fact that on most days the image of America consists not just of the damnation of California, the tribulations of party girl socialites, and the opinions of Urine Krugman, but also military occupation in Iraq, movies filled with a sex and violence, not to mention a President whom most of the world would not trust to successfully execute the Shriner’s mini-car section of a 4th of July parade. America is a strange place. But the way it seems from the far side of the world is even stranger.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

"I wonder if Kristof's pissed."

Good thing we have lots of cheese, seems you love it.